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Scandal-riddled Anne Arundel County exec readies for trial

By Margie Hyslop

Staff Writer

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold’s future is on the line, as scandalous accusations about his professional and personal life are set to air Wednesday in an Annapolis courtroom.

Leopold, a Philadelphia native and Republican whose political career spans more than four decades in Maryland and Hawaii, goes on trial on charges of misconduct in office, including requiring his county-paid security detail to drive him to parking lots for sex with a county employee, help cover up his affair from his live-in girlfriend and run his personal and political errands.

While running for re-election in 2010, Leopold also directed on-duty executive protection officers to post and maintain his campaign signs and collect campaign contributions in and out of the county, according to the indictment issued in March.

Six times Leopold directed his executive protection drivers to pull off the road, then Leopold left the vehicle and pulled up campaign signs for Joanna Conti, the Democrat candidate for county executive, the indictment states.

He also had his security detail develop dossiers on Conti and other people he viewed as political adversaries, according to the details of the indictment.

The subjects of those dossiers were people who were not considered security risks and include community and civil rights activists, women who worked on Leopold’s staff and are suing him for sex discrimination and retaliation and a state employee who filed a complaint that Leopold sexually harassed her.

Along with his security detail, the county employee who coordinated Leopold’s appointments and schedule was also called on to do Leopold’s personal errands on county time, including emptying a urinary catheter bag that the county executive had to wear strapped to his leg after back surgery in February 2010.

For that surgery and a second in July 2010, the indictment says Leopold also ordered extra security officers to attend his hospital stays to help prevent his girlfriend, Jane Miller, with whom Leopold was living in Stoney Beach, from discovering his intimate relationship with county parks and recreation planner Constance Casalena.

Officers worked a total of more than 170 hours overtime at the hospital –– at a cost to the county of more than $10,000 –– to keep Leopold’s affair secret from Miller, according to the indictment.

Leopold, who has remained in office despite calls for him to resign, is not commenting on the pending trial, said his spokesman David Abrams.

“You always have to [say] allegedly, until convicted, [but] it’s a corruption trifecta, combining Nixon White House tactics with Sam Green’s carnal bribery,” said McDaniel College political science professor Herb Smith, referring to the deposed Baltimore County State’s Attorney whose corruption trial in the mid-1970s included testimony about Green fixing a case in exchange for sex and hiring women for sex appeal and favors.

Retired Howard County Judge Dennis M. Sweeney is slated to preside over Leopold’s trial. He also presided over the corruption trial of former Baltimore mayor Sheila Dixon in 2009.

All told, Leopold is charged with four counts of misconduct and one count of misappropriating county and taxpayer money.

Penalties could vary for the misconduct counts, but a conviction for misappropriation carries a penalty of one to five years of imprisonment.

Conviction could end the political biography of Leopold, who served in Hawaii’s House and Senate and garnered 45 percent of the vote in a run to be that state’s governor before moving to Maryland in 1981.

During the almost 20 years Leopold served as a Maryland delegate, in a State House run by Democrats, he was considered a moderate Republican and a relatively effective lawmaker.

Smith said few people succeed in transplanting a political career from state to state, and “the energy and creativity he showed as a Republican was truly exceptional.”

The criminal case is not the only court drama featuring Leopold in the county that he runs.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in Dec. 12 in Anne Arundel County asking the Circuit Court to order Leopold’s office and the county police department to release a number of documents the organization requested under the Maryland Public Information Act on dossiers prepared for Leopold on his political enemies.

Deborah Jeon, the ACLU’s legal director, said Leopold’s office said they did not have the documents and the county police department said it couldn’t release them because they might be relevant to the prosecution.

Neither the executive’s office nor the county police responded to a Gazette reporter’s questions about why the documents sought by the ACLU had not been released.

Jeon said the executive’s and police department’s response to the lawsuit is due toward the end of the month.

mhyslop@gazette.net